An inquiry report submitted by the committee constituted by the Punjab government following the tragic incident in Murree in the wake of heavy snowfall recommended suspension and disciplinary proceedings against over a dozen senior government officials over their ‘failure’ to handle the tragedy, wherein at least 23 tourists, including nine children, had lost their lives. The report admits at page 2 that the inquiry was conducted in a hasty manner. The report has subserved the interest of justice and fairness as it is not supported by reasons and most of the conclusions have been drawn subjectively. Reason is the heartbeat of conclusion as it substitutes subjectivity with objectivity. It is evident from the report that conclusions have been drawn without fairly appreciating the written statements of the officers, evidence of rescue & relief, contingency plan, and deployment plan. The report is based on the premise that all the provincial departments are under direct administrative control of the Divisional and District Administration and their primary roles have also been attributed to the Divisional and District tiers. In order to establish the collective responsibility, the Committee has ploughed in the grey areas without delineating the primary roles of provincial and federal agencies. The Committee has ignored the fact that the office of the Deputy Commissioner is no longer a District Magistrate or a Principal Accounting Officer or the Reporting Officer of Provincialized Departments. As enunciated in the Civil Administration Act, 2017, a Commissioner shall be the officer-in-charge of general administration and principal representative of the Government in the Division. The Deputy Commissioner shall be the principal representative of the Government in the District. These officers shall be subject to general superintendence and control of the Government and have specific roles of supervision, coordination and monitoring for effective implementation of the policies, instructions and guidelines of the Government. The Committee has admitted that all coordination and follow up meetings were convened by the Deputy Commissioner, City Police Officer and Assistant Commissioner Murree but the officers have been implicated in the Report on account of lapses of the Provincial departments. The Committee has also ignored the magnitude of blizzard which was beyond the human threshold and available response-apparatus. Unprecedented 17 inches snowfall within 24 hours and winds at 18 to 24 Knots with poor visibility that led to fall of trees and electric poles were not discussed in the Report. The Committee has treated this unusual disaster as a normal snowfall and has not underlined the fact that no alert or warning qua regarding Blizzard or Snowstorm was issued by Pakistan Met Department, NDMA, PDMA or any other agency. The Report has mentioned two contradictory themes. On one hand, it asserts that more vehicles were allowed in Murree, tourists made many lanes on roads, traffic got stuck and snow clearing machinery couldn’t move. On the contrary, the Report declares that snow clearing machines were not placed at strategic locations, no proper operates, no fuel, no handheld snow blowers, machines moved late, they worked on priority roads, snow got accumulated due to heavy blizzard and hence traffic got stuck. The specific objections on the roles of the departments and relevant officers are as under: – 1. Role of ACS Home and conflict of interest a. The ACS Home, as Head of Enquiry Committee, himself was responsible to take appropriate steps before this incident. It is a well settled principle of natural justice that no one should be judge in his own cause ( Nemo judex in causa sua). This violation of cardinal principle of natural justice vitiates the entire proceedings of the enquiry but also raises many questions on the role of the ACS Home particularly in the wake of this weather warning. It raises a specific question that whether ACS Home coordinated with any of the concerned quarters or transmitted information to any agency as the Principal Head of PCM&CC. b. It is important to point out that Home Department has established the Provincial Crisis Management and Control Centre (PCM&CC), Government of the Punjab, at Civil Secretariat, Lahore in order to effectively control any emergency and ensure timely transmission of information to the concerned quarters for taking further necessary action, since 2000. This Centre is functioning round the clock. ACS is the Principal Head of the Centre. The core function of this Centre is to collect all kinds of emergent information from District and Divisional Heads of Administration and Police and furnish the significant information to the higher authorities for taking prompt action to meet the emergency. Therefore the findings of the Inquiry Committee are nullity in the eye of law and void ab initio. 2. Role of District Administration and Police a. The Report mentions that District Admin and Police reached out to the stranded tourists (page 5) but it does not highlight that a large number of tourists were moved to safe locations. The officers, in their written statements, have specified the numbers of rescued persons i.e. 1700 persons were provided free food/accommodation, 9500 food packets distributed, 700 blankets distributed, and 3000 persons were rescued by Pak Army. b. On page 7, the Committee mentions that DC/ Traffic Police not issued specific advisory but on same page also admits that DC/ Police used social media to inform tourists to exercise caution during snowfall (reach of police advisories was of 2.8 million). c. The Committee concluded on the basis of only 3 statements of stranded tourists has that no efforts were made to move stranded tourist to some safe place. This conclusion is in contradiction with other conclusion that about 20,000 vehicles were stuck up there and were rescued. The conclusion based on such an insignificant sample size is, by no means, a true reflection of the reality. d. The committee has also overlooked the fact that CPO Rwp was posted three weeks before and SSP Operations, Rwp, SP Sadar, SP Rawal, SP Potohar and ASP Murree were posted out after two days of his joining as CPO Rwp. The Committee has also ignored the fact that ASP Murree was also posted three weeks before the incident. The Committee seems biased to the extent that CPO Rwp and ASP Murree were held responsible and even the statements of SP Sadar and SSP Operations Rawalpindi were not recorded, the two supervisory tiers between ASP Murree and CPO Rwp. e. It is also important to mention that tenure of DC Rwp is just four months and of AC Murree is two months. The supervisory tiers between DC and AC were not even interviewed (ADCR Rwp and ADCG Rwp). f. The committee has also ignored the fact that a District Level Control Room was established with presence from all relevant departments and it had also responded to 700 plus calls. Relatives of stranded people contacted at control room as mobile networks were not functional at Murree. Moreover, tourists contacted for fuel, food, and other kind of help which were provided to them immediately. It was made sure to reach out to every tourist irrespective of the fact that they had contacted or not in order to provide them with necessary things which were required at the moment. 3. Role of PDMA and PMD The Role of Pakistan Meteorological Department was not thoroughly examined. Admittedly, there was no rep of PMD in Murree and the Alert dated 5-1-2020 regarding heavy snowfall was not transmitted to the District Administration. Even if the alert of heavy snowfall had been communicated, the forecast of blizzard or snow storm was not shared by the PMD before 7th Jan, 2022.This fact was admitted by the Committee that alert was not passed by the PDMA to all concerned departments. But still administration was held responsible for that. The post of DG PDMA was vacant. NDMA’s warning to PDMA on its WhatsApp number was not even opened till 18th January by Director PDMA as per findings of the Committee. 4. Traffic Management and Role of Traffic Police and NHMP a. The Committee underlines that there was no planning for contingency therefore the response to emergency was too little, too late. This point is in contradiction with the fact that from 20,000 vehicles, tourists in only 5 vehicles lost their lives and tourists from rest of the vehicles were safely rescued. The report also concludes that there was no plan B in case of traffic jam. In fact, shifting of tourists from their vehicles to the safe places by the revenue staff, police and Pak Army was the Plan B. b. The finding of the Report that Rawalpindi Police did not act till the arrival of Islamabad Administration is not based on facts. It is on record that pickets were set up by Rwp Police on both toll Plazas since 5th January to control traffic in case of any emergency. The deployment plan was provided to the Committee but the same was not mentioned in the Report. c. The Committee has concluded that delay in implementing blocking entry from toll plazas occurred because of bureaucratic hoops in Motorway Police and Islamabad Police (page 9) but still held responsible Rawalpindi Administration and Police for that. d. Expecting that there should be no traffic block in Murree without blocking entry in Murree is a wishful thinking especially in consideration of the focus of the Govt on tourism promotion. The Committee has not touched upon this issue; neither gave any weightage to it while recommending action against officials. e. The Committee holds that traffic plan is silent as to what SOP would be for coordination with ICT authority, steps required to clear roads in case of blizzard and plan to filter number of vehicles entering Murree. The Committee has overlooked that primary responsibility is of Highway Department for clearing snow first and for traffic entry filtration, pickets of Rawalpindi Police were operational on both toll plazas since 5th January. f. The Committee observes that Rescue 1122 is best provisioned in terms of training, uniform, equipment, gear and well prepared to perform rescue during snow. However, the Committee expects traffic wardens to perform the roles assigned to Rescue 1122 g. The committee pointed out towards collective responsibility. It is the responsibility of CTO to execute its traffic plan. CPO is not the authority for the execution of traffic plan. It was the duty of CTO Rawalpindi to call for stoppage of traffic at Bara-kahu. 5. Role of Provincial Departments including XEN C&W, Tourism a. It is an admitted fact that there was no presence of Department of Tourism Services TS in Murree till the incident. Three officials were posted after the incident by the Punjab Tourism Department on 10th and 11th of January, 2022. This notification fairly establishes the primary role of the Tourism Department but the blame of this admitted lapse has also been squarely placed on the Divisional and District Administration instead of Tourism Authorities. b. Of late, the Chief Secretary, Punjab has issued instructions that PERs of these departments shall be intiated by the officers of District Administration. This notification also establishes that the District Administration did not have administrative control over the provincialzed departments. c. The Committee has reported that appropriate snow removing machinery was not operative or strategically located in the morning. Snow got accumulated and traffic got jammed due to multiple traffic lanes. Machinery got stuck because it moved too late. Fallen trees and electric poles worsened the situation (page 4, last paragraph). Efforts were made to move traffic but accumulated snow, lack of action to remove trees by forest officers, cantonment forest officers and IESCO officers worsened the situation (page 5, second paragraph). Partial movement of vehicles continued throughout the night meaning thereby traffic police and administration remained working throughout the night. d. The Committee has also ignored that fact that Highway Department didn’t hire contingent staff who would have worked manually in case where machines couldn’t work and salt sprinkling was also not up to the requirement. Although the primary responsibility for snow clearance was of Highway Department, Forest for removing fallen trees, IESCO for removing fallen poles/wires and Rescue 1122 for rescue operations but still police and administration were held responsible for all such primary designated functions. e. Secretary C& W is administrative head of Executive Engineer Highways (Mechanical). In the fact finding report, Secretary C& W department was not asked about his role. And committee did not check the log-books and locations of snow clearance machines. Moreover, the committee diverted the findings towards district administration officers wherein their role is for coordination only. Highways department (mechanical) officers don’t report to district administration officers. 6. Role of Pak Army o The Report has attempted to undermine the contributions made by Pak Army in coordination, blockage of Traffic, Rescue and Relief, provision of food and shelter to the stranded families. The AC Murree and DC Rawalpindi specifically mentioned the contributions made by 111 Brigade and 12 Div, Murree but the same was reflected in the Report, which not only gives a false impression that there was lack of coordination between District Admin and Pak Army but also ignores the valuable services rendered by Pak Army during the crisis. On 07-01-2022, more than 1200 tourists were shifted at ASL Kuldana, Army workshop at sunny bank, Army supply point at sunny bank etc. Almost 09 snow clearance machines were brought at Murree from AJK, FWO, 45 army Div, etc to clear the roads. Moreover, army troops with shovels helped to shift stranded vehicles. Furthermore, all the rest houses were opened at Bhurban road for public. Food and other facilities were provided to the people / tourists at above mentioned places where tourists were brought. 7. Role of Federal Agencies and Jurisdictional Issues a. The Report does not highlight the territorial limits of ICT Administration, NHA and NHMP while pinning the blame on the Rawalpindi Admin and Police. The federal agencies such as IESCO and CEO Cantonment refused to respond to the Enquiry Committee, were not made part of the proceedings. The role of the relevant Federal including NHA and NHMP was not thoroughly examined in the Report. b. Carbon Monoxide poisoning was relatively a new thing for police. Committee has also admitted that Rescue 1122 should have advised administration about it. 8. Recommendations of the Committee The recommendations of the Committee are also in contradiction with the actions committee has recommended against officials; o Upgradation to District means insufficient administrative structure was there (no one was held responsible for it) o Establishing digital entry exit counting system means Government had not provided police/administration with accurate data collection mechanism for effective planning earlier (no one was held responsible for it) o Preparing a master plan for tourism development in Murree means there was no tourism plan for Murree earlier (no one was held responsible for it from Tourism Department) o Developing/ implementing a strict building control means there was no building control by the government before (no one was held responsible for it) o Establishing a modern early warning system and Pakistan Metrological Department in Murree means it was ignored by Government previously (no one was held responsible for it) o Strengthening Tourism Department and regulatory framework means it was not there before (no one was held responsible for it from the Tourism Department). o Joint management committee under DC and Station Commander means it was not there previously. o Establishing Safe City Infrastructure means Govt admits that it is not possible to monitor Murree manually. o Snow clearing management services be equipped with modern gadgetry, snow borne equipment and appropriate means it was insufficient before (no one was held responsible for it) o From the careful analysis of these recommendations, it can be concluded that whatever is recommended by the Enquiry Committee was not there or ignored previously. From this, another logical conclusion can be drawn that concerned departments were under resourced but Committee has punished them all ignoring this fact. The Committee has also helped many to escape from being charged who were responsible to provide all such things earlier, which are mentioned in the above recommendations. Proposal for up-gradation of the administrative set up in Murree o A proposal was initiated by the then Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Capt ®? Anwar-ul-Haq for the upgradation of administrative set up in Tehsil Murree in 2019.